Networking with like-minded organisations; making the right contacts; identifying who to network with; and extending involvement.
Two key things to remember first:
- Networking is a two-way process. It’s not about you asking for favours from someone else – it’s about creating mutually beneficial relationships.
- Every contact you meet should lead you to new contacts. This is why it’s called networking, just like a net, every connection leads off in two or more directions. Be generous with sharing your own contacts too, and introduce people from your network(s) to each other.
So how do you meet like-minded people?
Many social enterprise sectors hold networking events. It can be of value to organise a session in your own locality and invite organisations to attend. A programme which includes time for introductions (so as everyone gets to learn who is attending as well as relevant talks, interspersed with plenty of breakout/refreshment time for conversation and networking.
Networking events assist organisations and entrepreneurs to build their networks and identify opportunities for collaboration or partnership.
Tips for networking when attending larger meetings, conferences or events:
Attending networking events is a useful way to meet like-minded individuals and organisations, and there are several important points to remember:
Have a short elevator pitch prepared
- What are your organisation’s key highlights and challenges? Be ready with a short success story about what you do.
- This should be 1 min max, enough to give context, but not an information overload.
Bring some information from your organisation or business cards
- These can be a useful prompt for conversations and can provide some follow up information. Don’t feel you need to hand them out to everyone though, just where you have made a connection can be the best approach…
Identify the key people you want to make contact with
- Use your time wisely, and don’t try to meet as many people as you can. The introductory session can be really helpful, or if you have a note of who is likely to attend you can do some preparation and highlight any contacts you think would be relevant. Focus on making a few good connections rather than having many brief interactions. A few good connections is likely to be more memorable and effective for follow up and learning.
- If you have any specific challenges or specific project activity or enterprise approaches that similar organisations may have had experience with, this is a good opportunity to find out about their experience and recommendations.
Remember to listen as well as talk
- The golden rule at networking events is to listen more than you talk. Being an engaged and active listener will help you to ask the right questions and consider how the information and contacts made can assist you. Have a few good questions in your back pocket that show you are interested in more than just your own opportunities.
Questions could include:
- What projects are you working on right now?
- How did you get involved?
- What is the main priority for your community?
- Have you heard about [relevant project/funding/news]?
Don’t be afraid to join in
- There is nothing wrong with joining a conversation and waiting for a natural break in the chatter to introduce yourself. In most cases, the people already speaking will enjoy the interruption because it gives them the chance to meet someone new. If you sense that you’ve entered into a serious discussion, it’s okay to politely excuse yourself.
- You probably won’t remember the important details, so it can be helpful to write them down. After mingling with a few people, find a quiet corner to make notes or write down some key points as you go along. An info leaflet or if someone has given a business card can be a useful space to write notes. You can also write notes separately, but remember the name and contact as well as some prompts such as who the person is, what you discussed and any follow-up you want to make.
- Remember the purpose of a networking event is to connect with people in the future, and this will make following up with them much easier.
- If you want to reconnect with another person, be sure to get in touch a few days after the event. Making a phone call or If its by e mail make a personal connection as a prompt for example, mentioning something you spoke about. You can also follow up with connections via social media, such as friend requests on Facebook or follows on LinkedIn or Twitter.